I have been a fan of Jordan Peele since his comedy era with the skit show “Key and Peele.” Even when writing slapstick, Peele has always shown a deep knowledge of how to keep an audience engaged with the topic at hand, whether it be a punchline, or now a thrilling twist in what I believe is the best Peele project to date.
“Nope” is the new horror/thriller from Jordan Peele who had a grandeur debut with “Get Out,” receiving Oscar nominations off the bat and creating a reputation for himself as the fresh face of horror. With the release of “Us,” Peele proved he was more than a one-trick pony in the film industry, only making “Nope” one of the most anticipated films this year, with both audiences and critics.
“Nope” follows a brother and sister, played by Daniel Kaluuya, who proved his acting props in Peele’s debut, and former Nickelodeon icon Keke Palmer. The two have taken over their father’s Hollywood horse ranch, filled with horses used in the film industry when their father tragically dies from what they believe was a freak accident with debris falling from a plane. This mysterious phenomenon then turns into imminent danger when their ranch is attacked by an alien life force that destroys anything in its path that looks at it.
Due to the absolute originality of this movie, the story is best received when you go into watching it knowing as little as possible and expecting nothing, so if you haven’t watched the movie yet, please take the time to support theater releases and visit your local movie theater. There is nowhere else to watch this movie than the biggest screen you can find.
The title “Nope” already explains exactly what you are going to get from this film: a story that will make you say “nope,” the perfect reaction to experiencing an alien invasion of your home.
The one word that stays consistent while watching this movie is the word spectacle. There is no better word to describe watching the characters develop their idea of capturing the alien on camera while also developing their concept of what this alien even is, creating one of the first big twists in the movie revealing that they are not seeing a UFO or machine, but a living thing looking to defend what it believes is its home property.
The cinematography is one of the aspects that magnifies this spectacle. Hoyte van Hoytema did the cinematography for this film while he is best known for Christopher Nolan movies, which are known as the pinnacle of visual storytelling. I think what makes a horror movie stylized masterfully is the tension created in a single shot. I think this film is full of single shots that evoke the true feeling or horror whether it was the shot of the key stuck in the horse after the father is killed or the shoe standing straight up in the Gordy massacre scene. This movie was heavily ambitious in its visual aspects, and pulled it off well proving that Peele has grown in this aspect since “Get Out.”
Detail also comes with this and I’m not sure if one detail is missed. The script for this movie is fantastic, playing to the actors' strengths, but also allowing for visuals to carry the plot which is exactly what an effective horror does. The lighting and set is foreboding, as well as the visual effects fully immerse the audience in the horrors of the alien. The score and soundtrack were fantastic as usual, which I thought was one of the better parts of “Us,” had me listening to it on loop after seeing that movie. To both have a soundtrack that played into hip hop of modern times and jazz swing of yesterday then add a score that uses western themes that work for the setting of the ranch is to check off every aspect of the movie in music.
The performances have pretty much locked down Oscar buzz. While I assumed Kaluuya was going to stand out among the rest, I am now the president of the Keke Palmer fan club and vying for her to win the Oscar she deserves. While Palmer was fun and light, Kaluuya was understated and reserved, perfectly encapsulating the sibling dynamic that makes the ending of the two siblings walking out alive together worth the emotional toll of the last two hours.
I also loved seeing Steven Yeun on the screen as both this traumatized former actor and the secondary villain in the story, further pushing the narrative. I wish I could have seen more from his character before he was unfortunately eaten by the alien for creating a profit off of the alien’s existence for his character’s own company.
As with any Peele movie, there is a lot of social commentaries to try to unpack. The theme that stood out to me the most was the depiction of the abuse animals in the film industry endure. I believe that this is what the purpose of the terrifying Gordy scene in the film stood for. A beloved sitcom chimpanzee is shown snapping on set and mauling the actors of the show, except for Yeun’s character. On the surface level, this storyline seems to have no ties to the rest of the plot.
However, I believe that the alien finally seizing the ranch is another example of the abuse of creatures having jarring repercussions. It depicts the consequences of humans messing with forces that they cannot understand, pushing abuse to its limits. Yeun’s character proves to show that while the Gordy incident traumatized him, it does not end the cycle of abuse that humans must use to stay at the top of the food chain and assert dominance as the best species. However, this illusion is obviously torn down by the alien, making life a living hell on the ranch.
I can also count on Peele to comment on race relations as well. I noticed that the siblings were the only two black people on the set they were working on in one of the first scenes. I think that the cycle of abuse seen on animals could also translate to the cycle of abuse on African Americans in society knowing Peele’s work in the past.
I think that audiences cannot ignore that grief is also a large aspect of this movie. While the siblings claim that they want to get the “Oprah shot” of the alien to sell for a profit, I think that it also makes a comment on wanting to explain the unexplainable to get through our own traumas and pain. I think that this is clear when the two siblings reconnect in the end and ignore all of the tapes and pictures of the creature, but focus on the fact that the other one is alive rather than the money shot.
I think this film is the perfect mix between an entertaining film and a social commentary, allowing for ambitious comments to not feel too heavy, but yet elevating the concept of an alien caught on camera film.
The thing I appreciate most about “Nope” is the fact that a mainstream creator is not afraid to get weird with their ideas, keeping the horror film industry interesting in between all the jumpscare-heavy films that we have seen before. Peele takes an approach to filmmaking that many are too afraid to, creating devoted fans to his work. Creativity and originality are what makes Peele who he is: both an academy and a fan favorite unafraid to make the work we all want to surprise us and leave us excited to talk about what we just watched.
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